Marilee Nelson has long been an advocate of clean living. It started when illness had her facing a kidney transplant and she needed to change her diet and lifestyle. Years later, her 10-year-old son Douglas was exposed to high levels of pesticides, leaving him extremely sensitive to chemicals. Determined to heal him, Marilee learned how chemical exposure can impact health and removed all products with harmful chemicals from their home. Douglas recovered, but soon after, Marilee’s niece, Allison Evans, was experiencing unexplained pain. Marliee invited Allison and her best friend Kelly Love to join her at her home for a summer detox. Soon, Allison was pain-free, too. Marilee had now seen and experienced enough to know there was a need for clean products. Together with Allison and Kelly, she started Branch Basics, a company that makes and sells natural, non-toxic cleaners and laundry detergents.
In 2009, the team launched a website with two goals: sell cleaning products and educate people on health and wellness. “Cleaning was always our way of opening people up to the wealth of knowledge that Marilee had,” said Kelly. “We truly are an education company — that’s where our heart is.” Using a content marketing strategy, the trio initially focused on search engine optimization to promote products and blog posts. They saw success and eventually decided to try paid search with Google Ads as well. Today, Google Ads accounts for about 20% of the company’s total site traffic. “We’ve seen great success with Google Ads,” said Tim Murphy, CEO of Branch Basics. The company also uses Google Analytics to monitor its campaigns and G Suite tools like Hangouts, Docs, Sheets, and Drive to stay connected.
Google has helped Branch Basics educate more people about the dangers of toxic cleaning products and sell more of its safe-to-use cleaners and detergents. “We love hearing that someone else’s life has been transformed,” said Marilee. Branch Basics plans to continue growing. Moving forward, Branch Basics wants to continue to build on its mission to help those suffering from chemicals by offering clean-living experiences. “We do eventually see ourselves going beyond just cleaning,” said Kelly. “We want to open a space that serves clean food and products, where people can come and experience what we’re preaching.”
Faribault Woolen Mill Co.
Faribault Woolen Mill Co. is one of the last vertical mills in the U.S. They dye, spin, and weave their woolen products all under one roof. Founded in 1865, their pride in craftsmanship saw them through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and a mill fire, along with the trials of each passing decade. But after five generations of family ownership, the mill was bought by investors in the early 2000s and closed in 2009. The century-old machines went silent, and the workforce went home—that is until Paul and Chuck Mooty stepped in. Determined to save the mill, the two cousins purchased Faribault in 2011, hired 40 employees, and turned the factory lights back on. “We fell in love with its story,” Paul recalls. “And so we sought out to restore this iconic American business.”
At Faribault, old and new technologies work together to create a thriving business. The mill uses traditional dying and weaving techniques to manufacture premium blankets, throws, and scarves. “These decades-old machines still produce the highest-quality wool goods by far,” explains Paul. And digital tools like AdWords, Google’s advertising program, help to reach customers well beyond state borders. “It allows us to get our products out to customers in New York, California, and Boston, and not just be a local brand,” he adds. The Faribault team also looks to Google Analytics to improve their AdWords campaigns, which currently drive 20 percent of sales. “Because we’re a lean company, we appreciate having a tool like Analytics that lets us measure results, maximize return on investment, and make our ads work for us even better.”
Today, Faribault’s products can be found in stores all across the country. Since their reopening, they have more than doubled their workforce and rehired original employees, some of whom have been weaving for the mill for over 60 years. The impact of Faribault’s revitalization, however, goes well beyond job creation. “It’s restored a lot of excitement in the community,” Paul says. A play recounting the mill’s history was shown in the local theater; a newly built senior center was named after the business; and their storefront has attracted countless visitors, from out-of-state tourists to the Minnesota governor. “We’ve received more love and support than I can even describe. To get a company like this back up and running in a small town—nobody imagined that it could happen,” Paul muses. “But here we are. And it’s our hope to keeping it going for another 150 years.”
My Name Is Yeh
East Grand Forks, Minnesota
Molly Yeh has over 300,000 followers
Molly Yeh started blogging in 2009 as a classical percussion student at The Juilliard School in New York. She wrote about city life, including its diverse cuisine. After a few years, she and her then boyfriend (now husband) returned to their native Midwest and moved onto a working farm, chickens included. This provided a fertile setting for Molly to reinvent herself. "I didn't have lots of friends nearby, so I threw myself into the blog and worked on my photos and recipe writing," she recalls. "My Name Is Yeh shows my life on the farm and the recipes I create, which are influenced by my Chinese and Jewish heritage and my travels." Her unique perspective and recipes, from Brussels sprout latkes to whimsically colorful cakes, combined with a glimpse of farm life became a big hit with foodies. "By networking online and meeting other bloggers, I grew the blog into a business," she says.
Google has helped Molly grow her blog from something "only my mom and mom-in-law read" to an income-generating, award-winning destination. Google Analytics provides valuable insights on her audience and web traffic. “Most of my business is from working with sponsors. And potential sponsors always want to know if my audience aligns with their customer base. With Google Analytics, we can see whether or not my blog is a good fit,” Molly explains. Her social media channels, including YouTube, bring her experiences, recipes, and personality home to over 300,000 followers. Gmail lets her communicate with fellow bloggers, advertisers, sponsors, and other business contacts. And AdSense enables her to sell ad space on her site as an additional source of revenue.
Since her humble beginnings, Molly has won numerous awards and accolades, including Yahoo's Food Blogger of the Year and Forbes 30 Under 30 for Food & Drink 2017. She is now a sought-after freelance food writer and has published a cookbook, Molly on the Range. She gives back by volunteering at her local food co-op and community food truck. "Through generating a following on social media and traffic on the blog, I'm able to make a living," Molly says. We can't wait to see what she'll serve up next.
HalloweenCostumes.com has $70 million in annual sales
The Fallenstein kids were the envy of their neighborhood, thanks to mother Jenice’s creative, homemade Halloween costumes. In 1992, sisters Lisa, Heather, and Julie started renting out their old costumes from their garage. Brother Tom joined in part-time while studying computer science in college. After graduation, he decided to scare up new business by selling specialty costumes online. "I started building websites for us in 2004," Tom says. "By October 2005, everything exploded." They took over their mom's house, stocking inventory and shipping packages. "We had to unplug the phone because we couldn't take any more orders," Tom says. The family has since turned their garage operation into a full-fledged business in their hometown.
HalloweenCostumes.com sells costumes for adults, children, babies, and pets, as well as accessories and decorations. They've used AdWords, Google's advertising program, since 2007 to attract customers looking for particular types of costumes. "Our biggest traffic driver is AdWords, bringing in millions in sales," Tom says. They've redone their mobile-friendly website to appeal to shoppers using smartphones and mobile devices. Their social media, including Google+ and YouTube, showcases their vast inventory, demonstrating everything from mask-making to makeup-application techniques, and conjures up interest in costumes people never dreamed of (even in their best nightmares). Google Analytics lets them track what people are searching for and how they use the website.
Since their humble beginnings in their family garage, the business has outgrown two buildings. They now occupy a 200,000-square-foot facility, employ 150 full-time staff, and hire 1,500 seasonal workers during Halloween. They've launched two speciality websites (fun.com and shirts.com) to keep business hopping off-season. And they're expanding their brand internationally. "My sisters and I stand in the aisles here and say, 'Wow. This has come a long way from our parents' house,'" Tom says. "Google created the opportunity for me to bring a small costume shop online—and then bring it to the world."